(a) (1) A person 16 years of age or older, or who has been enrolled in the 10th grade for one academic year or longer, or who will complete one academic year of enrollment in the 10th grade at the end of the semester during which the next regular examination will be conducted, may have his or her proficiency in basic skills taught in public high schools verified according to criteria established by the department.
(2) The state board shall award a "certificate of proficiency" to persons who demonstrate that proficiency. The certificate of proficiency shall be equivalent to a high school diploma, and the department shall keep a permanent record of the issuance of all certificates.
(b) (1) The department shall develop standards of competency in basic skills taught in public high schools and shall provide for the administration of examinations prepared by or with the approval of the department to verify competency. Regular examinations shall be held once in the fall semester and once in the spring semester of every academic year on a date, as determined by the department, that will enable notification of examinees and the schools they attend, if any, of the results thereof not later than two weeks before the date on which that semester ends in a majority of school districts that maintain high schools.
(2) In addition to regular examinations, the department may, at the discretion of the Superintendent, conduct examinations for all eligible persons once during each summer recess and may conduct examinations at any other time that the Superintendent deems necessary to accommodate eligible persons whose religious convictions or physical handicaps prevent their attending one of the regular examinations.
(c) (1) The department may charge a fee for each examination application in an amount sufficient to recover the costs of administering the requirements of this section. However, the fee shall not exceed an amount equal to the cost of test renewal and administration per examination application. All fees levied and collected pursuant to this section shall be deposited in the State Treasury for remittance to the current support appropriation of the department as reimbursement for costs of administering this section. Any reimbursements collected in excess of actual costs of administration of this section shall be transferred to the unappropriated surplus of the General Fund by order of the Director of Finance.
(2) The department shall not charge the fee to an examinee who meets all of the following criteria:
(A) The examinee qualifies as a homeless child or youth, as defined in paragraph (2) of Section 725 of the federal McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act (42 USC Sec. 11434a(2)), or as a foster youth, as defined in subdivision (h).
(B) The examinee has not attained 25 years of age as of the date of the scheduled examination.
(C) For an examinee who qualifies as a homeless child or youth pursuant to subparagraph (A), the examinee can verify his or her status as a homeless child or youth. A homeless services provider that has knowledge of the examinee's housing status may verify the examinee's status for purposes of this subparagraph.
(3) For purposes of this subdivision, a "homeless services provider" includes either of the following:
(A) A homeless services provider listed in paragraph (3) of subdivision (d) of Section 103577 of the Health and Safety Code.
(B) Any other person or entity that is qualified to verify an individual's housing status, as determined by the department.
(4) The loss of fees pursuant to paragraph (2), if any, shall be deemed to be a cost of administering this section for purposes of paragraph (1).
(d) (1) The state board shall adopt rules and regulations as necessary for implementation of this section.
(2) Notwithstanding paragraph (1), the state board shall adopt emergency regulations, as necessary, to implement the provisions of subdivision (c), as amended by the act that added this paragraph. The adoption of these regulations shall be deemed to be an emergency and necessary for the immediate preservation of the public peace, health, and safety, or general welfare.
(e) The department shall periodically review the effectiveness of the examinations administered pursuant to this section. The costs of this review may be recovered through the fees levied pursuant to subdivision (c).
(f) (1) On or before December 1, 2018, the Superintendent shall submit a report to the appropriate policy and fiscal committees of the Legislature that includes, but is not limited to, all of the following:
(A) The number of homeless youth and foster youth that took a high school proficiency test in each of the 2016, 2017, and 2018 calendar years.
(B) The impact of the opportunity to take a high school proficiency test at no cost on the number and percentage of homeless youth and foster youth taking a high school proficiency test.
(C) The estimated number of homeless youth and foster youth who may take a high school proficiency test in future years.
(D) Recommendations for a permanent funding source to cover the cost of the waived fees.
(E) The annual and projected administrative cost to the department.
(F) The annual and projected reimbursement to contractors pursuant to this section.
(2) The requirement for submitting a report imposed under paragraph (1) is inoperative on January 1, 2020, pursuant to Section 10231.5 of the Government Code.
(g) Additional state funds shall not be appropriated for purposes of implementing paragraph (2) of subdivision (c).
(h) For purposes of this section, a "foster youth" means any individual who meets or has ever met one of the following criteria:
(1) A child who was the subject of a petition filed pursuant to Section 300 of the Welfare and Institutions Code and removed from his or her home by the juvenile court pursuant to Section 319 or 361 of the Welfare and Institutions Code.
(2) A child who was the subject of a petition filed pursuant to Section 602 of the Welfare and Institutions Code and removed from his or her home by the juvenile court pursuant to Section 727 of the Welfare and Institutions Code.
(Amended by Stats. 2016, Ch. 697, Sec. 1.)